Pruning is important for optimal tree health for the following reasons:
- Maintains tree health.
- Improves fruit quality and production.
- Establishes basic structure of the tree.
- Increases sunlight penetration and air circulation, which promotes greater flowering.
- Improves fruit quality and discourages disease.
- Controls the height of the trees to more easily harvest the fruit.
What To Prune
- Dead and diseased wood.
- Crossing or rubbing branches.
- Up to one-third of water sprouts.
When To Prune
- In Western Washington, with its mild winters, prune apple trees in Spring until the buds burst open.
- Use limited pruning to remove dead wood (June through September), to reduce water sprouts and to let in light. This allows enough time for wound closure before Winter.
- Effective pruning requires good quality, sharp tools. Clean the blades of the tools with isopropyl alcohol or mild bleach between cutting diseased and healthy branches, as well as between each healthy tree in order to reduce the spread of disease.
- Use hand pruners to cut “finger-sized” (1/2 inch in diameter) branches.
- Use loppers to cut branches up to 1 inch in diameter.
- Hand saws are preferable on larger branches since they make cleaner cuts.
How To Prune
There are two (2) types of pruning:
- Removes an undesirable branch at its point of origin from the parent stem.
- Increases sunlight to the tree’s interior and promotes greater flowering and better quality fruit.
- Reduces the number of new shoots and directs growth to other parts of the main (parent) branch.
- Removes part of a shoot or branch. It increases the likelihood of growth of new shoots at the point of the cut.
- Stiffens the branch and makes it stronger to support future growth on a limb.
How To Make Pruning Cuts
- Make 45 degree angled cuts to prevent water from collecting on newly cut surfaces and to quicken the healing process.
- Target Pruning removes branches by cutting just to the outside of the branch collar, not flush with the trunk. A clean collar cut helps the tree quickly grow over the wound, preventing disease and insect damage. When removing diseased wood, make an angled cut in healthy wood below the diseased wood. Sterilize pruning tools with isopropyl alcohol or mild bleach after each cut into diseased wood to prevent transfer of disease to other branches.
Pruning Instruction & Insect Classes
Pruning Classes Each Spring, Master Gardeners teach free pruning classes to tree adopters and other interested people. Volunteers can learn how to prune trees properly and help maintain the orchard using one of the below options:
*Attend a FREE Master Gardener Pruning Class offered on Thursday January 31, 2013 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the United Church, 3912 Grandview Drive West. Instructors cover proper pruning techniques along with necessary tools. Please register by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Pruning Parties –Trained volunteers are also available to assist people at the pruning parties which will be held at 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the following Saturdays:
Feb 9 and 23,
March 9 and 23,
April 13 and 27,
People are welcome to come at their convenience to prune their trees. Recommended pruning tools include work gloves, hand pruners, loppers and hand saws. Some tools available on site.
Informational signage regarding proper pruning techniques and tools are also located near the Curran Barn as well as by the Espalier Fence off the Grandview Drive entrance into the park.
*Tree Care – Visit the Tree Care link to read about proper pruning techniques and tools. You can also visit the WSU Master Gardener site at http://county.wsu.edu/pierce/mg/Pages/MasterGardeners.aspx
*Insect Management/Sticky Apples Class – Learn how to deal with undesirable insects and get the best fruit from your tree in a free class on Saturday, May 11, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Curran Orchard Barn. Visit the tree care page for more information.
*Apple Maggot Sticky Balls – Learn how to concoct a sticky solution to eradicate the dreaded apple maggot. All participants get a free sticky apple to take home. After the class, help volunteers hang the apples throughout the orchard. (Recommended 4 sticky apples per tree).